Global Education

Burmese Monks march to the beat of Democracy

By Denebola
Published: October 2007
By Jason KuoSoldiers of a corrupt government have detained thousands of peaceful protesters. Monks, fearing for their lives, have fled for safety. Contact to the outside world has been cut off as foreign nations stand by impotently. Welcome to Burma.
A military dictatorship, or junta, has ruled Burma for nearly two decades and has committed countless human rights abuses. Riddled with corruption, the Burmese, or Myanmar, government continually funnels money to its officials at the cost of the people.The latest massive tax increase to pay for a crooked raise in civil servant salaries sparked a peaceful pro-democracy protest led by Buddhist monks. Burmese Senior General, Than Shwe, responded violently; soldiers fired guns at the crowds and imprisoned key protest leaders.
Buddhist monks participating in the protest were imprisoned in subhuman conditions. They were deprived of food and were brutally interrogated by soldiers.
In an interview with Reuters, a monk who was released from the Burmese prisons stated that interrogators would beat the monks who would refer to Buddhism.
Notably, an interrogator had told a monk, “You are no longer a monk. You are just an ordinary man with a shaven head.
A UN envoy to Burma has concluded that the current state of Burma is atrocious, and that the Burmese government’s reaction to the protest could have “serious international repercussions.
Unfortunately, the international community has done practically nothing to improve conditions in the nation. Nations such as China and Russia, which have massive influence over Burma, have chosen to oppose any direct international response to the nation’s actions due to their financial interests in the country. The US has condemned the Burmese government’s actions but has done nothing to help resolve the issue.
The Burmese opposition party to the junta, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has been actively working to introduce a democratic government to Burma; NLD members helped organize the recent protest. Although their leader, Burmese-native and female activist Aung San Suu Kyi, rightfully won the1988 national election, the junta refused to transfer power to Suu Kyi. Since then, Suu Kyi has been imprisoned under house arrest.
The protest, however, sparked potential negotiations between the junta and the NLD. There have been discussions between the groups’ representatives to reach a peaceful resolution, but junta leaders have made the chances of an official sit-down slim to none because of their pre-negotiating terms. The junta demands that prior to negotiations, the NLD must abandon its encouragement of sanctions on Burma, a provision that the NLD likely would not support.
Ultimately, Burma’s road to recovery is certain to be long and arduous. The international community needs to stand up for human rights and work with groups such as the NLD to resolve the nation’s issues. But given the unshakable conviction of the citizens and their desire for democracy, there is hope for order and peace in Burma.

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